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  • Ashley Ehman

Week 4: The Self & Identity

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

Despite spending our whole lives within our heads and acting out our days, truly having a sense of self can come from a number of places. There are the bits and pieces that come to us naturally when we're born. Others develop later in life and constantly adapt, based on our environment and those we associate with. The things that make us us can be hard to define, but that's exactly what we're looking to do this week as we delve into the Self and our identities.


Lecture & Resource Reflections


This week's guest lecture was with Martin Hosken and it focused on the idea of The Self, and where it comes from. The concepts that we covered in the lecture were hardly what I expected to be learning in a graphic design course. So why do it?


It proved useful in a number of ways. First, it pushed me to think about what makes me who I am today. That part is what ended up inspiring my Workshop Challenge. It was also useful because it forced me to consider why we put so much meaning in how we are perceived to begin with. How do humans of today give themselves meaning in their everyday lives?


As Hosken states,

Humans are bound by love and attachment (Falmouth Flexible 2020).

To some degree, our purpose in life is to feel emotions. Nowadays, however, the way in which we feel is arguably different than it once was. According to the lecture, there is the existence of a Digital Self. Our Digital Self is the person we make ourselves out to be online. While people used to be content to enjoy the moment, it's now almost a cultural norm to take a selfie in memorable situations. As Hosken described, the selfie redefines our relationship with technology and memory. If the selfie isn't taken, was the event really worth remembering?


With The Self coming from sources of our conscious and unconscious, the topic of Nature vs. Nurture came into play. I feel that the Nurture aspect has a greater influence on who we are, but I also fall into the "younger generations" that agreed to this sentiment in Hosken's lecture. Will I feel different when I'm older? Perhaps, but at this point, I feel it's unlikely. Nurture plays into a lot of different influences in generating The Self, with one of the more important pieces being that of hegemony.


Hegemony is "the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group" (Vocabulary.com 2020). Basically, it's how your thoughts and ideas are influenced by those that hold the most power around you. As a child, your hegemonic discourse is primarily controlled by your parents. As you grow older, however, it can be influenced by politicians, friends, and other groupings of people. To say that our genetic predispositions, or Nature, determine more of who we become seems to detract from the innumerable Nurturing influences that we face over the course of our lifetime.


The Trajectory of Self


This source was an interesting read, but definitely required close attention! It took me back to my undergraduate history classes, as we often used in-depth source material to study an idea or event.


While I could ramble on about the entirety of the chapter, I'm going to stick to the piece that caught my attention the most. The idea of pure relationships had me comparing my own friendships to the parameters laid out in the text. In order to be considered a Pure Relationship, it had to have the following elements:

  • The relationship is not anchored in external conditions of social or economic life

  • It is only sought for what the relationship can bring the partners involved

  • It's reflexively organized, in an open fashion, and on a continuous basis

  • Commitment

  • Focused on intimacy

  • Mutual trust

  • Linked processes of self-exploration and development of intimacy with the other

(Giddens 2010: 70–108)


With a concise list of requirements laid out, I began to compare the bullet points with the relationships I have in my own life. I think I can say with confidence that I have at least two of these relationships. One is with my best friend of 15 years, Kelsey, and the other is with my best friend of 6 years, Vincent. Ironically enough, the two of them have also become great friends, making a trifecta of Pure Relations in my life. Is that a thing? I'm making it so!

Workshop Challenge


The process I went through to get from my 20 words to a single artefact to represent myself was a long one. Each step along the way proved to be important, as outlined below.


Like everyone else, I started with a list of 20 words to explain myself and my design style. My original list included the following words:

  1. Tenacious

  2. Sarcastic

  3. Honest

  4. Adaptable

  5. Ambitious

  6. Funny

  7. Dynamic

  8. Intuitive

  9. Independent

  10. Quirky

  11. Accepting

  12. Strong

  13. Clever

  14. Witty

  15. Imposter

  16. Observant

  17. Resourceful

  18. Efficient

  19. Messy

  20. Versatile

I considered my list to be diverse enough to grasp who I was at my core but struggled with moving it down to just five words. In order to adequately define who I was, I first made a list of five words for myself. I then whited out the words and had my roommate do the same thing. Arguably, our lists were quite similar. My original list had: efficient, independent, adaptable, witty, and sarcastic. His list had: resourceful, independent, quirky, sarcastic, and ambitious. There were a few words that matched, so those went on to my final list without much more thought. Those words were: Independent and sarcastic. Beyond that, it was a matter of Quirky vs. Witty, Resourceful vs. Ambitious, and Efficient vs. Adaptable. Since the pairings were quite similar in meaning, I simply chose the one that seemed to better fit who I thought I was.


My final list was:

  1. Independent

  2. Sarcastic

  3. Ambitious

  4. Resourceful

  5. Quirky

Having put together a cohesive list, I began making my mood boards.


Mood Boards


I liked the idea of consistency across my mood boards, so I used the same style and design for all of them. In addition, since these boards were meant to represent words I had chosen to symbolize myself, I incorporated imagery and photos that I had of myself and those close to me.


Independent

I've always been one to do things that are outside of the norm. Maybe it was my only-child upbringing or something else entirely, but I hold on to the idea of "if no one will do it with you, just do it by yourself." If I waited for someone to join me, half of my adventures and experiences would cease to exist. The stock photos are great visual examples of "doing my own thing." For my own personal twist, I included a photo from Burning Man and another one from Trolltunga in Norway. Burning Man was a good representation of independence, as I packed for a week in the desert entirely by myself and learned how to make a Monkey Hut mere hours before I left. If you're not part of a camp, it's important that you're able to independently take care of your own needs while camping in the desert. Trolltunga, on the other hand, was just one example of a trip that I made by myself. This particular part of the trip was done with friends, but in the end, I purchased the plane tickets and left home of my own accord, without much support from others.


Sarcastic

Sarcasm is a big part of who I am. At some points in my life, I would argue it was almost my entire existence! For this one, I included a dog I regularly walk (his name is Indy) giving me a face that I could only interpret as "You can't be serious." The face below his is a friend of a friend, which I included because I see this look very often when I'm sarcastic. Jim Halpert was just a visual aid for this mood board, and the Brady Bunch daughter is a common GIF used within my friend group.


Ambitious

Ambition was an interesting word to include. There's a constant fight between my desire to reach my ambitions and my depression, holding me back. In spite of my daily mental health battles, I am still a very ambitious individual. I included the book, as it's one of my own writing. Surely a published author can be seen as ambitious? Kamala Harris was the visual aid in this board, and I included her because she's a relevant, strong woman who has been facing a lot of flack for simply being ambitious and female. The bottom two photos are from my travels. Again, the elevation photo is from Trolltunga, because only an ambitious individual would hike 6 hours up AND down a mountain after having slept in a car the night before. The other photo is from Zurich. This was from my trip this past February (just barely fit it in because of COVID). 5 cities, 3 countries, 17 days, all while still working remotely? Ambitious.


Resourceful

For resourceful, I included a plant and a woman balancing various tasks for my visual aids. My personal photos include me working on the floor and an image I took at a concert. The photo of me on the floor is from Zurich airport, where I managed to find a power outlet and knocked out some work prior to my flight departing to Sweden. If that's not using my resources, I'm not sure what is. As for the concert image, this represents one of my favorite hobbies. I take great pride in the images I can capture at live music events, and in order for them to be of good quality, I have to use as many resources as possible. This includes having a good camera, decent placement in the crowd, workable lighting, and using the shape of the stage to my advantage.


Quirky

I've always been a little weird, which is why I chose the photos I did. The Octopus Housewife was a visual aid, but I didn't have much issue finding personal photos to represent my own quirkiness. My favorite image in this quartet is the image of me as Lurch from the Addams Family. Done for a visual communication assignment, I chose to represent the theme of "Transformation" by making myself into the various members of the spooky family. My out-of-the-box thinking has always been a quirky aspect of mine.


By spending time with these mood boards, I was able to start developing a workable idea for the Workshop Challenge artefact.


Research


Shawn McClure


Shawn McClure is the artist and owner behind the Skylinyl brand. Based in Seattle, Washington, McClure recycles old vinyl records by creating them into elaborate cut-out pieces of art. He got the idea for his unique craft during a trip to Australia, where he encountered a moving sale that left him with a crate of old records. During the hottest day of the year, the records began warping under the heat of the sun. In an attempt to salvage them, he cut out the Sydney skyline in one of them with a kitchen knife. (I would like to know how he got this to work because it did NOT go well for me.) When he returned home, while pursuing a career as a studio drummer, he began making these pieces on the side and actually started a Kickstarter to get his company off the ground. Since then, his company has racked in over 8,000 followers on Instagram and he continues to get custom orders for his artwork. He's also taken the time to upgrade from a kitchen knife to an Exacto knife. I'm extremely curious as to how he can get the cutting part to work for his pieces, so much so, that I reached out to him in regards to his process. We'll see if he responds.


LifeOfFallon

While she's not exclusively a vinyl artist, I found her video "DIY's Using Vinyl Records!" video on Youtube extremely inspiring. In the video, she first covers the process of how to make records malleable. Apparently, putting them in the oven at 250 degrees will do the trick! (Now I know...) She then goes on to make a bowl, a notebook cover, and wall art. I also learned from the video that by putting records in the oven, they can be easily cut with scissors!!!!


My Process


I would like to preface this by saying I definitely used my resourcefulness to get this project done! I ran into a few different complications that required unique problem-solving.


I knew going into this project that I would likely stray from my digital roots. Whenever I'm given the opportunity to work outside of a software program, I take it. It's a good way to challenge myself and I think my digital work is all the better for it. Yet again, I had issues finding a good starting point, so I did what any rational person would do: I called my mom.


I asked her what SHE would make to describe me as a person. "Something eccentric..." That was all I needed. For whatever reason, when she said "eccentric" my mind immediately went to a vinyl record. It was perfect! I collect vinyl records, I live for music, and I get a lot of my inspiration from musical sources. It also referenced my Week 1 circle well, and I liked that I had a central theme going.


I wrestled with the idea of what to do with the record for a fair bit of time. I thought I would just design the cover art, or maybe make a playlist of sorts to represent myself. I landed on the idea of doing a mobile because a lot of my life is "up in the air." I was going to cut my words out of the record, and have them hang from the cover. While they would be different pieces, the idea was that they would all work together and still form a familiar record shape and be able to be put back in the record sleeve. This would be representative of how there are many pieces that make up the whole of me.


A pretty solid and poetic idea, right? Well, it didn't work as planned. I traced the record and made my outline of the word art to be placed on the record.



That was tedious and I know now why people invest in Exacto knives. When it came time to start cutting the record, I tried two different cutting tactics.

  1. Scissors: I didn't really expect this one to work. That would be too easy.

  2. Knife: Back at it again with the dangerous tools. Well, that didn't work either.

It turns out vinyl records are made of a material that doesn't like to be cut. The first piece I tried to carve out ended up flying off in a random direction. Cutting wasn't going to work.


It was time for Plan B. I didn't have a Plan B going in, but hey, I'm resourceful! With an hour until close, I traveled to my local craft store in the rain, inspiration in hand. I walked to the aisle I sought. Aisle 55. I walked up to the section I needed and began scanning the shelves for what I was looking for. It wasn't there. Ok, no pressure. I'm probably just blind. I asked an associate for help. She couldn't find it either. "I think we're out of etching cream. We had one on hand, but someone probably bought it." Oh, cool. Did I know if the etching cream was going to work? No. Was I still going to try? I had hoped to! With no etching cream to be found, it was on to Plan C.


I left the store with metallic spray paint and a red paint marker. Remember how I mentioned it was raining? This meant I couldn't spray paint outside if I wanted to make any progress on my project. I really hope the can of paint was thinking of my bedroom and a fan in my window when they referenced spraying in a "well-ventilated area." I taped my stencil down, and got to spraying!


When the fumes settled and the paint dried, I began filling in the shapes of the letters with my paint marker. When that was finally done, I sprayed poor Ray Price's lovely face with metallic silver paint to create a blank canvas for my album cover. Since the whole idea behind this week was thinking about our true Self, I incorporated two symbols that are synonymous with who we are: fingerprints and a signature. We all have unique fingerprints and stylized signatures, so it seemed perfect.

Final Thoughts


And with that, I had a vinyl record to represent me! Due to the physicality of the piece (and not wanting to fill in a whole new record in case it didn't work), I stopped where I was. If I were to go further with things, I would include a tracklist on the back of the album cover, to give the design an audio aspect to it. In addition, I played with the idea of outlining the letters in black to make them more legible, but I kinda like how they all flow together at this point. It's symbolic of how people hardly have one definable trait about them. I obviously didn't make a mobile, like my original plan, since I wouldn't risk losing an eye in order to cut the vinyl into pieces. Regardless, my design plan developed quite nicely.


In hindsight, I would have definitely invested in some vinyl wrap. I made my design with paper, but had I used vinyl, I would have been able to stick the entirety of the design onto the record and get clean, crispy lines for the outlines of my words, instead of just loose references. I also wouldn't have spray painted in my bedroom, but no harm, no foul.


And with that, my final(ish) deliverable. I still might outline the letters, but I await the feedback from my peers before making any drastic changes.


Update: 12/5/2020


Full-disclosure, I didn't quite understand the research process we were supposed to follow until about Week 6. Because of that, I didn't know how to make my record easy to work with until way after this week's project was already done. If I had more time, I'd love to try this project again, and maybe even get my original mobile idea to work.



Sources:


FALMOUTH FLEXIBLE. 2020. “The Self with Martin Hosken.” flex.falmouth.ac.uk [online]. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk?wvideo=2dzio1u8xh [accessed 20 Oct 2020].


GIDDENS, Anthony. 2010. Modernity and Self-Identity : Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity Press.


LIFEOFFALLON. 2018. “DIY’s Using Vinyl Records!” YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7mKbrlqUy8 [accessed 5 Dec 2020].


MCCLURE, Shane. 2020. “Skylinyl | Handcut Vinyl Record Art.” www.instagram.com [online]. Available at: https://www.instagram.com/skylinyl/ [accessed 6 Dec 2020].


RAW ARTISTS INC. 2014. “Skylinyl : Vinyl Record Artwork.” RAW Artists [online]. Available at: https://rawartists.com/skylinyl [accessed 5 Dec 2020].


SKYLINYL. 2014. “Skylinyl.” YouTube [online]. Available at: https://youtu.be/iHcdG32B9QY [accessed 5 Dec 2020].


VOCABULARY.COM. 2020. “Hegemony - Dictionary Definition.” Vocabulary.com [online]. Available at: https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/hegemony [accessed 20 Oct 2020].

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